When Earl and Judee Leichter opened their first boutique in 1983, stonewashed jeans were the rage.
But now, 30 years later, dark denim is hot, while some styles they started out with have returned, like leggings and crop tops, albeit in newer designs.
Their EJ Labels for Less originally opened at 39th and Bell streets, selling both men’s and women’s discounted fashions. After Earl passed away in 1994, his widow sought business advice from a mentor and long-time friend, a former Woolf Brothers executive. He recommended focusing just on women’s apparel and accessories, and moving from discounted merchandise to more upscale merchandise. It proved to be a good strategy.
Now called EJ’s Boutique and located at 11543 Ash St. in Leawood’s Park Place, the shop carries such brands as Lauren Vidal, Johnny Was and Cartise.
Leichter, 74, has kept some of her original customers through the years and despite several moves. Her demographic is mostly women, ages 40 and older. But sometimes they bring their daughters in and they’ll become customers.
“They know they can trust me to tell them if something doesn’t look right,” Leichter said. “And I won’t push something to make a sale. When they come in the door they come for a reason and you need to appreciate them being there. It isn’t all about selling. Sometimes it’s a lot of retail therapy.”
EJ’s Boutique plans to celebrate its anniversary Thursday. It will have a Jane Signorelli trunk show at 2 p.m. and then live music, along with hors d’oeuvres and wine, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Customers also can buy one item at a 30 percent discount during the event.
Park Place also is adding two new shops to its line-up.
• T. Loft plans to open in early 2014 at 5225 W. 116th Place. The locally owned tea and juice bar also has a location in south Kansas City serving fresh brewed tea and juice drinks, grab-and-go meals, and snacks made from natural gluten-free ingredients.
• Fitness-Culture is scheduled to open its shop on Nov. 29th at 11553 Ash St. The fitness apparel, health and wellness boutique will carry health supplements and snacks, aromatherapy products, and women’s and men’s fitness clothing and accessories.
In other Park Place news, Bella Bridesmaid, which specializes in “stylish, wearable and chic bridesmaid dresses,” plans an early December opening.
Romanelli Sun Galleria, a new concept from the owners of Romanelli Optix, plans to open in January. It will sell 50 to 60 different collections of luxury and active wear sport sunglasses.A burgers/oysters/hot wings hangout
Jefferson's Restaurants, based in Franklin, Tenn., has signed an agreement with the new Emerson Investment Partners LLC in Overland Park. Emerson plans three area restaurants and is looking at locations in Johnson County for a possible spring 2014 opening.
Founder Jefferson “Jeff” Webb saw a need for a local hangout while a student at Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Ala. After graduating, he sold his treasured baseball card collection and pooled funds with a loan from his parents to open the first Jefferson's in mid-1991. Despite a small menu, the restaurant was a big hit, often selling out of its hot wings.
A Lawrence location opened in 2001, and that was to be the last.
But then people kept pestering the owners to franchise. Now there are two corporate restaurants and 16 franchise locations in Kansas, Alabama, Georgia, Illinois and Tennessee. Another franchise restaurant is scheduled to open in Alabama later this year.
The menu also has been expanded and now includes chili burgers, grilled chicken Caesar salads, barbecue sandwiches and barbecue platters, turkey clubs, catfish baskets and more.Potbelly for Overland Park
Potbelly Sandwich Shop plans to open its new Overland Park restaurant, at 6751 College Blvd., today.
Potbelly, which also has a location on the Country Club Plaza, specializes in toasted sandwiches, hand-dipped shakes and made-to-order salads.